Gravitational Disappointment: Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s ‘I.S.S.’ Fails to Soar with Fresh Ideas and Tension-Building Thrills

Los Angeles, California – Space-themed films have long captivated audiences with their unique blend of tension and wonder. From Georges Méliès’ groundbreaking “A Trip To The Moon” in 1902 to present-day productions, filmmakers have explored the vast potential of space as a setting for human drama and exploration. However, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s latest film, “I.S.S.,” falls short of fully utilizing the compelling narrative possibilities and stakes that the International Space Station (I.S.S.) offers.

Set aboard the I.S.S., the film introduces us to a group of six passengers engaged in a power struggle for control. The premise holds promise for an intriguing exploration of human dynamics and survival in an isolated and high-stakes environment. However, “I.S.S.” fails to deliver on this potential, offering little in terms of fresh ideas or character development.

As the story unfolds, the astronauts on the space station witness a nuclear war erupting on Earth, which destroys their communications systems and leaves them with a single directive: take control of the station by any means necessary. Complicating matters further, an electromagnetic pulse causes the I.S.S. to lose altitude, putting their lives at risk. What follows is a battle for dominance, filled with betrayal and murder, as the characters navigate the treacherous situation.

One of the film’s major shortcomings is its lack of meaningful character interactions. Instead of engaging in strategic debates or intense arguments as they navigate the crisis, the characters are picked off one by one. Their decisions to trust or betray one another often come across as arbitrary, without much growth or development throughout the film.

The portrayal of the protagonist, Dr. Kira Foster, played by Ariana DeBose, also falls flat. While DeBose brings charisma and vulnerability to the role, the film fails to delve deeper into Kira’s motivations and struggles. This one-dimensionality extends to the supporting cast, including Chris Messina, Pilou Asbæk, and John Gallagher Jr., who are given little to work with in terms of character development.

Visually, “I.S.S.” excels, with immersive camerawork simulating zero gravity and stunning visual effects. Cinematographer Nick Remy Matthews draws inspiration from classics like “Alien,” creating a moody and atmospheric backdrop that perfectly complements the film’s themes. Additionally, the score by Anne Nikitin adds depth and tension to the overall experience.

Despite these visual and auditory achievements, “I.S.S.” ultimately falls short in delivering a compelling and coherent narrative. The filmmakers miss opportunities to explore the psychological and emotional toll of the crisis, as well as the potential for unity and cooperation among the characters. The result is a frustrating and disappointing film that fails to live up to its initial promise.

“I.S.S.” is set to hit theaters on January 19, offering audiences a visually captivating but narratively flawed take on the space thriller genre.